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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sharp Experience

Fred and I were married in 1993.  I was 21 and he was 23.  We spent less than $1,000 on the event.  All the guys in the wedding party wore suits and all the girls wore nice dresses.  Our flowers were poinsettias.  Fred and I both sold our personal comic book collections to pay for the rings and the invitations.  It was a relatively small affair, but very nice with as much pageantry as we could afford.  After all, Fred and I had both been theatre majors, so we knew how to put on a show.

On the morning of December 26th we attended a Church service followed by a wedding rehearsal.  I was scurrying around making sure everything was just so, when my quiet mother took me aside and said, “Regina this is a wedding, not a show.” 

It took me aback.  There were things to do, steps to take.   I was in a hurry, but my mother stood before me.  She was wearing a lovely green dress with her hair carefully curled.  She looked at me with her serious brown eyes, and placed her hand upon my arm.  “Slow down, and remember why you are doing this.”

It was a wedding and not a show. 

Some folks forget that there are moments in our life that are meant to be sacred.  A wedding is such a time, and so is a funeral.  These are times we yearn for a sense of the greater good and spectacle exists only to support the sacred moment. 

I was reminded of this recently at a magnificent affair called “Greater Good: The 2011 Sharp Experience All Staff Assembly.”  It was held on October 11-12, 2011 and approximately 14,000 Sharp Healthcare Staff attended the event.

I have been to quite a few events at hospitals and many staff assemblies, but I have never seen an event quite like the one created by Sharp Healthcare.  The great hall was set with seating for 5,000.  Ushers with flashlights helped everyone to their seats.  The Stage had three performance platforms and multiple lighting designs.  They even erected a small stage for my easel within the audience.

CEO Mike Addresses the audience

The staff of Sharp Healthcare created this amazing experience with Sonia Rhodes, Chief Experience Officer, coordinating this massive event and CEO Mike Murphy acting as Master of Ceremonies.  You see, everywhere I looked the show planners and staff were helping and guiding all of those who attended the event.  They even bused the staff to the convention center from miles away.  On this day the guides were ushers and clean up crew and on the next day they would return to their regular jobs as nurses and medical providers.  The attendees were not just the CEO’s, CMIO’s and Board Members, they were also the janitors, technicians and cafeteria staff.

Sharp Healthcare invites everyone to the table.  Then they show them where their seat is and ask if they can help in any other way. 

They even assigned me a “handler.”  If you are often a speaker, you might have been helped by one these lovely people in your career.  They are often a young assistant or intern assigned the task of making sure the speaker has something to drink and shows up at the speaker ready room on time.  My handler was a very nice man named Josh McCabe.  Josh got me Starbucks coffee and refilled the water for my brushes.
Joshua McCabe, RN and painting assistant

Josh is also the lead clinical care nurse in the Sharp Chula Vista ED. 

He is one of the best nurses in the Sharp system and he did his part in the Sharp experience by helping an artist perform three speeches and paint three paintings.

So three times in two days I spoke before 4,000 attendees of life and love, of Fred and medical records and explained the patient story is a great good thing. 

When I was not speaking I was painting, and the first of those paintings was “1,000 Cranes.”

1000 Cranes

In this painting a patient rises out of an excavation crater, her arms are supported by the six pillars of quality at Sharp.  Construction cranes surround her, uplifting her and providing “bags of goodness.” This represents the 14,000 bags that the staff of Sharp filled with gifts and gave to people of the community, be they patients or soldiers.


In the air above her, paper cranes fly, rejoicing in her full recovery.  The patients and families of Sharp who created hundreds of cranes in support those who are ill inspired this image.


The second painting is “My Sharp.”

My Sharp

This painting focused on an aspect of care at Sharp Coronado Hospital.  Cindy S. Murphy, MPH, Director, Customer Operations Administration at Sharp Healthcare, explained the open records approach that Sharp Coronado has embraced.  Using the lessons they have learned from the Planetree model they now involve the patients during shift change hand off and explain the entries in the electronic medical record to the patient.  After answering any patient questions they leave a copy of the record with the patient.  The patient can amend the record with up to 250 words and that information is logged into the patients EMR.

I stood under little paper lanterns at a small reception and listened to Cindy describe a hospital that was actively treating patients with dignity, respect and open access.   I wanted to cry for joy, but instead I painted this. 

Three members of the Sharp staff open the book that is my story, my record, my Sharp.  And from this record patients coast down playground slides in a life-long game of chutes and ladders made all the more joyful by they way they are being treated.

My Sharp

The final painting is “The Sharp Dance.”

The Sharp Dance

In this painting two sharp staff members perform a low dip as ballroom dancers.  It is beautiful and romantic.  It is sacred, just like a wedding.  

I asked two volunteers to step up so I could paint them dancing.  Lisa (Li) deBeaumont, RTT, CMD, and Manager of Radiation Oncology stepped forward as did Dave Libbett.  Dave was walking with a cane, so within this painting his cane has become the staff of Asclepius.  He is dressed in his finest as he looks with joy upon the viewer.

A different kind of cane

Lisa is wearing ballroom red representing passion and all those who live due to the Sharp Experience.  Lisa’s back is arched as she completes her dance and her eyes search the heavens.  She holds a rose in her lowered hand.  And if you look closely you will notice the thorns have pricked her.  A drop of blood drips down.  She has been pricked because thorns are Sharp. 


This is what I saw when I visited Sharp Healthcare.  I saw people who worked really hard but loved their jobs.  I saw people who might walk with pain, but walked with pride.  I saw that, sometimes, it is painful to be Sharp but it is so very worth it.

And I saw people who love to celebrate the wedding, but focus all their energy on the marriage of patient care and provider work to come.

Thank you Sharp Healthcare for that experience, and thank for creating the perfect amount of spectacle to support us in the sacred mission of care.  



  1. Regina, thank you for sharing you passion. Action and passion equals success. Here's to always taking action to create possibilities for all patients and their families. Also, Sharp Memorial Hospital was the hospital, along with Coronado, that has the open medical record program. Thanks for sharing our story!

  2. Visual art and poetry: a potent combination. Thank you, Regina Holliday, for your willingness to share your talents & passion to benefit the greater good!

  3. Regina, thank you for your art and passion! You inspire us to do our best for patients every day. Your personal stories help me remember that each person that I care for is human with family that is depending on us to help their loved one.
    It was a privelege for me to be your 'handler'. At Sharp we believe that everyone deserves the very best care, and that applies to our artists as well as our patients!

  4. Regina! thank you so much for sharing your art and your passion! we enjoyed your presentation so much, and even better learned a lot. thank you for inspiring us!

  5. Wow, wow, wow. Doesn't this make me wish there was a Sharp facility near Nashua, NH!

    And I absolutely love your wedding metaphor: the sacrament being an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace ... and the celebration being another layer of decoration on the substance.

  6. I love Josh. I used to work at Sharp Chula Vista and he IS the greatest nurse and just a great person to work with.